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Injured Paul O'Connell 'a massive loss' to the Lions admits Rowntree

The tourist’s forwards coach confirmed that Geoff Parling will start against Australia on Saturday.

Paul O'Connell at theLions' captains run in Melbourne.
Paul O'Connell at theLions' captains run in Melbourne.
Image: ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

LIONS FORWARD COACH Graham Rowntree is hopeful that injured lock Paul O’Connell will remain with the squad for the final three matches of the 2013 tour.

It was confirmed earlier today that a lower arm fracture had ended the Munster man’s third Lions tour. O’Connell played a big part in the Lions securing a 1-0 series lead in Brisbane on Saturday.

Speaking to the media at the captain’s run before tomorrow’s final midweek match, against Melbourne Rebels, Rowntree admitted the second-row’s playing presence would be sorely missed. Rowntree said, “He’s a massive loss; such a big influence within the group. He was playing exceptionally well but you’ve got to get on with these things. It’s a big group and that’s why we brought so many players.

Whether he’s going to stay on or not, I’m not sure. I’d like him too because of the great influence he has on the players. We’ll find out over the next couple of days.”

Geoff Parling was due to captain the Lions on Tuesday but has been withdrawn from the line of fire in expectation of a Saturday start against the Wallabies. Welsh flanker Dan Lydiate will now captain the Lions at AAMI Park.

“Yep,” Rowntree confirmed, “I’m not going to try and lie there. Geoff is our next lineout caller up and has been doing a fine job coming off the bench. He’s taken his chance when he’s started for us as well.”

The Lions coaching staff brought the issue of an alleged, intentional head stamp from Wallaby captain James Horwill to the head of Alun Wyn Jones, O’Connell’s second-row partner in the First Test. Horwill was cleared of any wrong-doing on Sunday and Rowntree would not be drawn further on the decision.

He said, “It’s happened, we move on. I’ve got enough to worry about.”

TheScore.ie will be liveblogging all the Lions v Melbourne Rebels action live from 10am on Tuesday.

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Patrick McCarry

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